Study: Modern Dog Domesticated From Single Event 40,000 Years Ago

Lori Ennis
by Lori Ennis
Researchers from Stony Brook University claim that modern dog was domesticated only once, anywhere from 20,000 and 40,000 years ago.

This new research combats previous conclusions from a 2016 study that said the modern dog was a product of two domestications. It also suggests the timing of that domestication event to have happened approximately 40,000 years ago.

Lead author and paleontologist Krishna Veermah says that there are very differing theories about the origin of the modern dog and its domestication, with various branches of science staking claim in different camps. Contradictory or incomplete evidence has led to some of these opposing viewpoints, Veeramah says, with dog-like remains dating back 35,000 years ago but an undisputed dog jawbone fossil that is only about 14,700 years old existing.

Related: Scientists Say Russian Islanders were World’s First Dog Breeders

Geneticists have found data that claim all modern dogs of today’s ancestors’ split into two populations of dogs–East Asian breeds and breeds that led to European, Central and South Asian and African dogs of today.

The problem is that no science has been able to precisely date that split of breed populations, and many researchers still disagree as to whether there was one domestication of modern dogs of today or two.

This new research helps clarify the domestication timing and also weighs in on whether or not modern dogs had one or two origins throughout history. Veeramah and his co-researchers looked at genomes from dog fossils found in parts of Germany, ranging in time periods of 4, 700-7,000 years ago, as well as data that came from a 5,000-year-old dog specimen from Ireland. They compared that ancient genetic data with the genetic information from over 5,500 canids that included wolves and dogs.

What they concluded was that dogs and wolves most likely split genetically anywhere between 36,900 and 41,500 years ago with the split between eastern and western dob breeds occurring between 17,500 and 23,900 years ago. The researchers believe that domestication of dogs had to have happened during those time periods, therefore concluding domestication of dogs as we know them happened between 20,000 and 40,000 years ago.

This research suggests that a case for dual-origin domestication, as was suggested by a 2016 study, is unnecessary, as no one still really knows where dogs were domesticated, and the need for dual-origin domestication theory does not exist.

Related: Canine Family Tree Maps the Evolution of ‘New World Dog

Dr. Veeramah says that the ancient dogs of his study were of the same time period as that previous research, and they were very similar to modern European (and mostly domesticated) dogs, suggesting that there was only one domestication event that happened from the Stone Age until now.

Dr. Veeramah and his colleagues know that their research, which will be published in Nature Communications, doesn’t necessarily prove where the modern dog came from, or when he came to be, but stands as a basis for the addition of other ancient samples from around the world to give a better overall picture of the origin and population history of today’s modern dog.

Dr. Veeramah’s research focus is primarily on ancient humans, but says that more ancient dog DNA and information about modern dog origination can help him better in his research on humans, as dogs and humans share important intertwined histories.

Lori Ennis
Lori Ennis

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